Don’t Feed the Squirrels

The thing I never fail to find in National Parks, are signs that say ‘DON’T FEED THE SQUIRRELS’, in bold red letters. Sadly not many people listen to its advice, and while many walk away unscathed, there are some people out there that could tell you a story or two. Luckily, as a ranger at Zion’s National Park, I have plenty of stories that I can tell you. Quite a few explain exactly why we keep those signs up, even if people don’t follow the rule. This is one of those stories.
Summers are our busiest season, sure it gets past 100 ° Fahrenheit on most days and there’s always the risk of flash flooding with summer storms, but people have it off of school and work, so here they come. A few years back, I was working when I got a call out of the blue that a woman had been attacked by a wild animal. I couldn’t believe my ears, I had never come in contact with something like this in my short 2 months as a ranger and I was excited. I got the medical kit ready and sat just imagining what it could be. Maybe she was trampled by a deer, I had heard of that happening; or maybe it was a bear (unrealistic I know, but I was 19)!
Well as it turns out, this woman had been doing exactly what the signs advise against. She had been feeding a squirrel. As her husband and kids began the long hike up Angel’s Landing, she sat near the bathrooms and waited, soon after she was joined by a fuzzy, and hungry, companion. Pulling trail mix out of her bag she would lazily share a nut here and there with the squirrel, until she ran out. Now, what you have to understand is that squirrels are perfectly content with being fed, but if they aren’t, they get a little bit hangry. This little guy kept coming closer and closer, begging for food she didn’t have. When she finally tried to swat him away, he snatched at her. Quicker than a cobra that sneaky devil ran off with a piece of her fingernail right in his mouth.
As disappointed as I was, I knew that this little bite could cause a world of trouble. Squirrel bites can cause an inflammation of the bone or joint, and if he’s sick, he could spread it to whoever was bitten. Taking all of this into consideration I diligently cleaned out the wound while she sniffled and swore vengeance on the animal. After I finished up I told her to make sure she checks with a doctor to see if she might need a tetanus shot, and then dutifully pointed out a sign just outside of our building that read, ‘DON’T FEED THE SQUIRRELS’. Needless to say, she was very unhappy with me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *